The Creston girls track team accomplished its number one goal for the night here on Monday — defending its title at the home Lady Panther Relays.
On a perfect night for running, the Panthers made improvements in almost every event across the board in racking up their second meet title in three tries this year.
The win also helped Creston head coach Clay Arnold accomplish his second goal — sending the team’s six seniors out in style.
“We wanted to send our seniors out in style, and I think we did so in pretty convincing style,” Arnold said. “We won every relay, except the 4x200 and the shuttle hurdle relay were the only two relays we didn’t win. We got second in both of those.”
Seniors Taylor Hudson, Brianna Maitlen, Katie Pudenz, Katie Stevens, Lauren Tucker and Emily Wignall were honored during a brief senior night ceremony during the meet.
Arnold was impressed with the way his seniors competed, especially Wignall and Hudson.
“Emily Wignall’s 1,500 — cut nine seconds off,” Arnold said. “Last week, I thought she was behind where she needed to be at this point in the season, but now she’s right back where I wanted her to be in that 15.
“I was happy with Wignall closing out her senior campaign with a good 1,500 meter gold, running mostly by herself,” Arnold continued. “Hudson and Wignall ran a great open 800 race for a couple of seniors there.”
Hudson and Wignall ran first and second in the Class AA, or large-school division of the meet, 800 meters with Hudson overtaking Wignall for the lead in the final 200 meters of the race.
The 4x100 meter relay team of Maitlen, Chelcee Downing, Hudson and Zaidy Frank ran a strong race with “perfect” handoffs in taking first place.
Frank, a junior, had a big performance in front of the home crowd, sweeping the individual sprint events and adding gold with the 4x100 meter relay team.
Frank won the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash and 400 meter dash.
The Panthers remained undefeated for the season in the sprint medley relay, despite featuring a lineup an almost completely different lineup.
Tucker was the only athlete who ran on the sprint medley in the two previous meets to run on the relay on Monday.
The distance medley relay also struck gold after having been beaten by Clarinda twice last week.
“We’d been battling Clarinda all last week at both places, but we tried to shore it up a little more tonight,” Arnold said. “We put a couple of our veteran girls on there. Downing ran the third leg both times last week, but tonight we put her in the leadoff spot, which was her old spot from last year.”
Olivia Nielsen ran a career-best split of 31.4 for the second 200-meter leg of the relay, and Taylor Briley followed with a 1:03.5 split in the 400-meter leg before Natalie Mostek anchored in a 2:33 for the victory.
The 4x400 relay team of Natalie Mostek, Maria Mostek, Raegen Smith and Briley earned a gold medal for the Panthers in the final event of the night.
Natalie Mostek split a 1:06.03, Maria Mostek split a 1:07.18, Smith split a 1:06.22 and Briley anchored in 1:04.45 for the Panthers.
Arnold noted that this would normally be the third week of competition for the Panthers, but with the team’s first week of meets getting cancelled, it’s actually the team’s second week of competition.
“Our times tonight, we might have been out in front in a lot of events, but our times were improvements from last week,” Arnold said. “This should be the third week, but after missing meets, this is the second week.
“A lot of people would look and say we kind of ran away with the team title, but Clarinda and Shenandoah have tremendous teams,” he continued. “They have great athletes. They beat us in events and were right with us in others.”
“I thought our JV performed very well,” Arnold said. “We’re kind of packing two punches there. I was pretty impressed with that. Especially with that 4x400.”
The Creston JV 4x400 team of Madison Hance (1:09.47), Jami Sickels (1:08.75), Jessica Beatty (1:10.9) and Amber Castillo (1:08.14) each improved on their previous times in the 400 meters.
Arnold also praised Josie Sickels’ performances in the JV races.
“She was sick a lot earlier, but she turned a huge corner for us,” he said. “She ran a very solid open 100 in the JV and ran a very good leadoff JV 4x200 in 30.8. Then she was in the open 200, ran a very good time, and ran in a very good 4x100.
“We’ve had three good JV meets and we have another one coming up on Friday,” Arnold continued. “A lot of JV girls have proven they can fill spots on varsity for us.”
Creston returns to action Thursday at Glenwood.
Full results from the Lady Panther Relays, including area results from the meet, will be published in Wednesday’s edition of the Creston News Advertiser.